What are the different types of dental insurance plans?

Are you in the market for a new dental insurance plan for yourself or your family? Before you get started, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the various types of dental plans out there.

There are several different types of dental insurance plans – each will work differently in terms of out-of-pocket costs, benefits, deductibles, and so on. Some dental plans will offer a wider network of dentists for a higher monthly premium; others may be less expensive but restrict coverage for certain procedures or require more out-of-pocket spending on treatments such as root canal therapy or dental implants.

We’ve summarized the four most common types of dental insurance plans below: PPO, DHMO, Dental Discount Plans, and Managed Fee-for-Service Plans. Read on to learn more.


Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO)

Dental Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) are contracted so that members have access to a network of dentists who accept reduced fees for covered services.  Dental insurance companies offering these plans also share a portion of the reduced fee, which means members will lower out-of-pocket costs when receiving treatment from an in-network dentist.

The out-of-pocket cost that members do pay is a designated percentage of the reduced fee, called coinsurance – also known as a copay. The plan then pays the remainder subject to your deductible and annual maximum. Members have the flexibility to receive care from dentists outside of the PPO network, but may experience higher out-of-pocket costs when doing so.

According to the National Association of Dental Plans, Dental PPO plans are the most predominant type of plan in the U.S. market; 82 percent of all dental policies are PPOs.1

Of course, every PPO plan will be unique. As is true for each of the following insurance plan summaries, make sure to reach out to the individual insurance company to understand the specific benefits, network size, and limitations of their PPO plan. Delta Dental offers these plans under Delta Dental PPO™ & Delta Dental PPO Plus Premier™.


Dental Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

A dental HMO provides lower cost coverage with a focus on preventive care, which typically includes cleanings, periodic oral evaluations, x-rays and sealants.2 Dental HMO benefits are provided in exchange for a fixed monthly premium, and members must use in-network dentists in order to obtain coverage

The dentist network size of an dental HMO plan is smaller than that of a PPO, but the cost also tends to be lower due to the limitation described above. Delta Dental offers DHMO dental plans under DeltaCare® USA.


Dental Discount or Dental Savings Plans

A Dental Discount or Dental Savings plan allows members to choose from a panel of participating dentists who charge discounted fees for their services.3 Discount Plans typically have a lower premium than PPO and Managed Fee for Service Plans.  Members typically pay an annual amount in exchange for the discounted fees.

Discount plans function differently from most “traditional” dental insurance plans in that there is no reimbursement paperwork to fill out and no coinsurance. Instead, members pay discounted fees directly to the dentist at the time of treatment. Delta Dental offers this under a plan called Delta Dental Patient Direct.


Managed fee-for-service plans

Managed-fee-for-service plans generally offer the largest network of dentists for the members to choose from.

Like a PPO plan, members pay a certain percentage for each service provided by a dentist and the plan will pay the remainder subject to your deductible and annual maximum. The percentage you pay out-of-pocket will vary based on the service received. Delta Dental offers this plan under Delta Dental Premier®.

Members in managed fee-for-service plans have a larger network of dentist to choose from than those in a PPO plan. This is also why the members in manage fee-for-service plans pay a higher out-of-pocket cost. 


Know what’s covered by each plan before selecting one

You may not have access to all of the types of dental insurance plans listed above – the plans you can choose from will depend on what’s available in your area. Once you have a solid understanding of the types of dental insurance plans available in your area or offered by your employer, individual & family dental insurance plans, or Medicare Advantage. You can begin to conduct additional research into the details - such as covered procedures, waiting periods, and annual limits.


Final thoughts

Every dental insurance company will offer slightly different plan types with different benefits and levels of coverage. Consider weighing each plan’s monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Do your research thoroughly before selecting a plan – make sure that your current dentist, if you are hoping to continue using him or her for routine cleanings and procedures, is covered under your desired plan. To compare these plans side by side, please see our individual dental insurance page.


Additional resources

Looking for more information? Brush up on dental insurance basics:



What are the different types of dental benefits products? (n.d.). National Association of Dental Plans. Retrieved from nadp.org/Dental_Benefits_Basics/dental_bb_10

What do dental plans normally cover? (n.d.). National Association of Dental Plans. Retrieved from nadp.org/Dental_Benefits_Basics/Dental_BB_2.aspx

Types of Dental Plans. (n.d.). American Dental Association. Retrieved from mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/types-of-dental-plans